Don't Bite Me.

Sure, I had heard about biters. In fact, before I was a mama, I used to think that sprouting teeth was nature's way of telling you to stop breastfeeding. The greater beings were showing you that your baby is ready to eat steak, and not only milk.

I didn't realise, you see. I didn't realise that breastfeeding was about comfort and love and sleep and pain-relief and the-world-is-overwhelming-me-relief. I didn't realise that the average age of weaning world-wide is 4.5. I didn't realise that the World Health Organisation recommends that all babies be breastfed until two years of age. I didn't realise that it would be something that was so fundamentally important to me in my role as a mama. Only when I couldn't do it did I realise how much I wanted to.

And then last week The Little One started biting. And now I understand. All those mamas with babes that have bitten them... I was way too flippant about it. He managed to get six teeth without biting once, and then he got a cold. It seemed to be the combination of a cold plus teething that triggered it, and suddenly everything upon which I had based our feeding relationship was out the window. 'When in doubt, whip it out!' was my adage. And so I whipped it out all over the place – to sleep, to wake, for hunger, for pain, for unknown grizzles. Now, if I attempt to breastfeed him at a time when he is not completely shattered with fatigue or absolutely desperate for my milk, he bites.

I cropped my nipple out of this picture.
It's about 10cm from those chompers. Scary stuff.
The first time he did it, it was first thing in the morning. Usually he wakes very happy and babbles away, and then I feed him a little which gives me time to slowly wake up too. It was a glorious morning ritual. Until he bit me. Hard. Literally, it was as if two shards of glass were being hammered into my nipples. Yes, I screamed, yes I cried, and yes, I bled. And yes, I was furious. It seems ridiculous now, in hundsight, but I was so angry at this little boy. All that I had been through to allow him to breastfeed, and he bit me?! I didn't even want to look at him. I got my husband to take him away from me while I wiped away my tears, wiped away the blood, and took some deep breaths.

And then I had to try again. Goodness, the fear...

This time I waited. I waited until he was unhappy, until he pulled at my shirt with his mouth open. Since that first time, there have been others. I try hard not to yelp, in case he thinks it is a fun game, or he gets such a fright that he goes on a nursing strike. I have now learnt to close up shop the moment that he starts babbling, in case he wants to play instead of feed. I have now learnt to offer him something to chew on first, to test if he really actually justs wants that, and not myboob at all. I no longer feed him to test if he is tired. I no longer feed him to relieve his teething pain.

I am not feeding him for comfort, and that saddens me. Funny; this has turned me into a somewhat 'normal' breastfeeder. I am now feeding him about every four hours, instead of little bits here and there all the day through.

I know it won't last forever. I think the thick of it is already over, as he hasn't bitten me today at all, and his sniffles are beginning to subside.


* This too shall pass *

Edit: It passed! I now know that, for my boy, sniffles and a cold seem to make him bitey. But otherwise, we are biting free!
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7 months: More firsts and six teeth!

My littlest boy, or The Little One, as he has been dubbed in our household, is seven months old now. We have been exclusively breastfeeding for around six weeks now, which is mind-boggling. It has become normal. Normal. Can you believe it?

That's not my boob, honey...
I am hitting a whole bunch of new firsts -- Some great, some annoying, some not great at all. But even the not great ones actually make me really happy deep deep inside, as they are potential problems that any successfully breastfeeding mother deals with. They are not weird, rare, unexplainable issues, and this I love.

Firsts:

- His night nappy leaked. As in, it leaked from too much wee. And we had him in a size 4 nappy, which is technically from 7-18kg (how on earth you'd fit an 18kg child in one, though, is beyond me) and he is only 7.5kg, so that was a lot of wee. And it was from my milk alone. Rock on. 

- I fed him in a public toilet. Not out of embarrassment or harassment, but because I chose to. It is quiet and boring and reasonably dark in there, and since he is a very distracted feeder lately, I chose to do this to get a decent feed into him during a busy day. I sussed it out first, and it was impeccably clean (though it isn't as if I am dunking his face in the bowl), and yes, it worked.

- He bit me. We were having a bath together and he kind of pushed his way up to my breast and so I got him to latch on, thinking he was hungry, but nope - he just wanted to play. WOWSERS. He drew blood! New little teeth are thin, sharp little buggers! And now he has six already, four on the top and two down the bottom. Yikes. All the advice I've heard about this issue is to try your best to repel that instinct to take them off and yelp, and instead to try to remain calm (ha, easy to say when it isn't your nipple being carved!) and to actually pull them abruptly into the breast. I didn't do either of those things. I yelped and whipped him off. Oops. He is yet to do it again, though, and I have certainly learnt to wait for him to be more definite in showing cues that he wants to breastfeed from now on!


Chompers in there are busy at work!
- Feeding him to sleep is one of my favourite things about being a breastfeeding mama, but now that teeth are involved, sneaking my body away from a sleeping baby often involves having to drag my nipple past a set of grating chompers. Another new, and totally normal, thing to navigate!


* * *

In other news, I'm playing around with my domperidone levels again. I've been down at 60mg for a couple of days now, and no dramatic signs of less milk production, so I'm hoping to keep that up! As with everything this time around, I'm not taking notes on any specifics, so I'll go down another 10 in a few more days, after I feel confident that the 60mg is okay. This whole process scares me, but I would really love to be able to feed my boy for as long as he wants, and I really don't want to have to do that while medicated for the entire time... It seems a little.... I don't know. Wrong is too strong. But just unnatural, when the whole aim of everything I am doing is to allow this process to be as natural as possible. So... yes, it seems a little counterintuitive.

And in more other news, my ever-so-glorious first boy is three years old today. As I said to him at bed time, it is completely, totally, absolutely and definitely impossible for me to love any part of him any more than I do. He is an earth-shaker, that's for sure.
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Becoming a Lactation Consultant

I have news.

I am on the way to becoming a lactation consultant. I fear it may take me a decade, quite literally, but the ball is rolling.

It was while I was in labour that My Amazing Midwife suggested that I also become a midwife. I wasn't exactly eager at the time, but the seed had been planted. The amount that this woman, Anja, has done for me is astounding and beyond my wildest dreams for prenatal, birth and postnatal care, and I must admit that the thought of being that person for another mother-to-be is pretty tempting. But oh, the study. I have spent so many years of my life in universities, studying Biomedical Science, Occupational Therapy, Creative Writing, English, and Secondary Education. I have studied at four different universities. I was only working full-time for just over two years when we left Australia. So the thought of totally starting over again, going back to university study again, and probably even in German, is daunting, to say the least. And the lifestyle of a midwife is one that I'm not sure I could maintain.

It was while she was working with me that Anja managed to obtain her accreditation to become an IBCLC (Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant). I realised that a lot of the support that I had received – both prenatally, in dealing with my past scars, and postnatally, in finding solutions that allow my little boy and I to have a breastfeeding relationship in our own way – was in her role as a lactation consultant.

I feel as if I am so researched. Throw me any question regarding ways to boost milk supply, and I have the answer (big claim, I know, but try me.). I am so researched in both anecdotal and scientific evidence when it comes to the use of galactagogues, that I am just desperate to apply that knowledge to anyone besides myself. I have been in contact with the Human Lactation Research Group and the University of Western Australia. I must have spent many hundreds, if not thousands, of hours researching causes and treatments of low milk supply, the use of donor milk, tongue and lip ties, milk blisters, mastitis, over and underactive letdowns, etc etc etc. I absolutely adore when one of my mummy friends shares some breastfeeding story with me – either a personal achievement, a funny anecdote or a potential problem – and I am able to share in their joy or actually really help them.

And so, I'm on my way. It isn't easy to gain that accreditation, particularly if you aren't already working in a hospital environment. There are many units of study that I will need to undertake, and some of these remain entirely out of my reach for now, but it is great to know that my 'wasted' university study in the science and medical areas are actually going to be acknowledged now and will fulfill some required prerequisites. There are some more units that I will need to study (all in good time), and then attend a few days of a full-time lactation-specific course, probably in Berlin. In German.

The most scary and exciting part of it all is that I need to obtain one thousand hours of practical, hands-on work with mothers and babies, assisting them with breastfeeding. One thousand hours. Anja has admitted that she is desperate for me to just get accredited already, as there are so many women that she would love to refer to me already, but legally can't. She has spoken to her bosses at the beautiful alternative hospital where I birthed my boys, and I am about to begin a practicum there with mothers and their newborns. How incredible is that?! Just a couple of hours here and there on the weekends...

But...

Let's presume I manage to go for four hours every saturday (and hope that my little bubba will be okay with Daddy and no boobie for that long). That would mean I will be there for 250 weeks. More than five years. Ha.

Gotta start somewhere! And man, this is going to do wonders for my German!
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